Down But Not Quite Out: The "Near Poor" in America

Graphic: The New York Times / Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Can you be living on the edge of poverty if you earn more than $50,000 a year? Yes, you can ... if you live in Silicon Valley.

A new and very surprising analysis by The Census Bureau reveals that 100 million people - yes, one in three Americans - live either in poverty or just above it.

Jason DeParle, Robert Gebeloff, and Sabrina Tavernise of The New York Times wrote this intriguing article about America's "near poor":

They drive cars, but seldom new ones. They earn paychecks, but not big ones. Many own homes. Most pay taxes. Half are married, and nearly half live in the suburbs. None are poor, but many describe themselves as barely scraping by.

Down but not quite out, these Americans form a diverse group sometimes called “near poor” and sometimes simply overlooked — and a new count suggests they are far more numerous than previously understood.

When the Census Bureau this month released a new measure of poverty, meant to better count disposable income, it began altering the portrait of national need. Perhaps the most startling differences between the old measure and the new involves data the government has not yet published, showing 51 million people with incomes less than 50 percent above the poverty line. That number of Americans is 76 percent higher than the official account, published in September. All told, that places 100 million people — one in three Americans — either in poverty or in the fretful zone just above it.

One worker profiled by The New York Times summarizes her situation with crystal clear clarity:

“Living paycheck to paycheck,” is how she describes her survival strategy. “One bad bill will wipe you out.”


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People need to ease up on the Haterade. Near Poor is a very real phenomenon.

Single-filers, Bracket-creep, etc.

Also, $100k/yr. doesn't get you as far as it used to in NYC.

There was an article about 2 years ago in the Times that $200k is the New $100k.

Another interesting source is, believe it or not, John Cheese's article over at; he says something similar about 1 bad bill or unexpected hiccup creating a major crisis.

Hell, a friend of the family got nearly completely washed-out in the 2007-2009 crash, his business went bust, lost 1 house, and is now hoping to survive on early retirement benefits and still feed his wife who has nearly zero 401k.

Crazy finance stuff can happen if you're not frugal and an operator in investments.

(side note: great book on investing is "The Intelligent Investor", by Benjamin Graham, )
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>> taxes make people poor

I doubt that all of those countries with higher tax rates have higer poverty.

(Harder to compare poverty rates between countries because what's considered "poor" is different from country to country.)

When it comes to tax rates and whether or not they are acceptable it all depends on what you get in return.
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So a millionaire who is living paycheck-to-paycheck because of the mortgages on 4 mansions, 2 yachts, and payments on his 4 Rolls Royces is considered "near poor". What's the difference between that Millionaire giving up a Manasion and a regular person giving up cable TV in order to make ends meet?

I also dig how 52% of the 17% who are "near poverty" are there because of taxes and expenses. Since expenses are tax deductible, this means that they didn't get reimbursed on their taxes, effectively meaning higher taxes were paid.

Cut and dry: taxes make people poor.
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